Rajoy Claims Vindication for Strategy of Keeping a Low Profile, Requests Early Elections


From right to left, Mariano Rajoy, Dolores de Cospedal, Esperanza Aguirre, Javier Arenas and Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón at the Executive National Committee of the Popular Party. Photo by Claudio Álvarez.

Rajoy Claims Vindication for Strategy of Keeping a Low Profile, Requests Early Elections
The leader of the victorious Popular Party avoids questions, calms euphoria, and won’t consider a vote of censure
El País: Rajoy reivindica su estrategia de bajo perfil y pide elecciones anticipadas
Carlos E. Cué reporting from Madrid May 24, 2011

Mariano Rajoy is not a man accustomed to vindication. Due to his timidity, style, and strategy, he prefers that others analyze his trajectory and explain his decisions. He almost never does so himself. But Sunday’s landslide victory lead to changed behavior on Monday. Rajoy used a televised speech before the National Executive Committee to remind everyone, the faithful and critical alike, of the wisdom of his strategy of keeping a low profile, designed by him and his guru Pedro Arriola, and he said he will continue to employ this strategy given the fabulous and unexpected fruit it has given him.

Sunday was, for Rajoy and the majority of the PP, proof that he was right. Now he is committed to cooling euphoria, not agitating the left, and arriving at La Moncloa [the presidential palace] without anyone noticing. And also in changing the party’s isolationist image from the last legislature: “The PP can speak to everyone except Bildu [ETA’s de facto political party].”

“We had a slogan, centered on you, which was an appeal to moderation,” he began. “We campaigned the way we believed was best for us and the Spanish community. We haven’t responded to provocations or insults. We have to think about the future. We aren’t here to entertain anyone, and no one should mark our agendas,” he finished in a clear reference to the press. Esperanza Aguirre listened to him quietly though she obtained an extraordinary election result using precisely the opposite strategy, which was to take a stand on all controversial issues.

He is so obsessed with not making noise that when he laid out the matter of the day, a petition for early elections, he did it in his style, dissimulating, without any sound bites. He reminded everyone that he had already asked for early elections ten months before in the debate over the state of the nation, and he assured that the option remains on the table. “We told Zapatero. He didn’t accept, and that’s his right. Things haven’t gone any better. Our position is the same, and we’re not going to repeat it every single day because that wouldn’t make sense.

“This government is not in good shape. Greece’s isn’t well, either; it has a dangerous amount of debt. There is much uncertainty, and this government is not the most suitable for generating confidence and dispelling doubt,” he argued.

In case any of his directors doubted him, Rajoy put the machinery of his party in motion yesterday. The leadership believes Zapatero will not move forward on his proposal, but the PP wants to maintain pressure and keep its rival in tension.

In fact, Rajoy announced that on June 6 there will be a board meeting to decide the future of Dolores Cospedal as secretary general. If Rajoy opts to relieve her – first he will speak with all the party barons – Ana Mato, whom the leader applauded as the coordinator of this campaign, has the votes in hand to be the new secretary general. Cospedal has always said that she wants to get along with others, which has inspired much internal criticism, although yesterday she was much more cautious. Cospedal, after her well-deserved victory, and Rajoy both have the power to do what they like.

The PP should have a congress before the end of the year. It could happen after the elections, but it also could also take place in the fall as a launching pad for the national elections. “The party is beginning to prepare for the general elections,” Rajoy stated.

The leader did not answer questions – not even after such a crushing victory – but Cospedal will do so in the morning. He left it clear that, despite those who are convinced the current state of affairs is unsustainable, the PP will not call for censure of the current government. Rajoy has decided to move forward cautiously, not take risks, and wait for the PSOE to collapse under its own weight.

Now for governing. Only a fall packed with budget cuts, which made the left mobilize against previous PP governments, as is happening in Catalonia now, could detail a victory the populares have long considered irreversible. The leader asked influential party members for cuts but not traumatic ones. “I’d like more control of superfluous expenses, assessments, contracts, and normal expenditures, and austerity in comportment and in law. That is what is expected of us.”

Although just yesterday he asked for “maximum transparency” from his regional leaders in order to clean up politics, Rajoy still hasn’t explained a controversial decision such as leaving Francisco Álvarez-Cascos off the Popular Party ballot in Asturias, something which came back to hurt him. But the power of Rajoy is already so absolute that no one even asked about the Cascos affair. In fact, nobody spoke except him and Cospedal.

A hundred directors, among them the regional presidents – including the almost-always absent Francisco Camps – traveled to Madrid to applaud each other. Rajoy has attained all his objectives. Including this last one: that the PP act ever more like its leader.

Rajoy Quotes
Early Elections: “This government is not in good shape. Greece’s isn’t well, either; it has a dangerous amount of debt. There is much uncertainty, and this government is not the most suitable for generating confidence and dispelling doubt.”

Low Profile: “”We had a slogan, centered on you, which was an appeal to moderation,” he began. “We campaigned the way we believed was best for us and the Spanish community. We haven’t responded to provocations or insults. We have to think about the future. We aren’t here to entertain anyone, and no one should mark our agendas.”

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